Echo Lake State Park is a great place to take the family for a swim and picnic. A scenic trail around the lake provides great views of sheer, 700-foot Cathedral Ledge which towers over the lake. A mile-long auto road and hiking trails lead to the top of Cathedral Ledge where views across the Saco River Valley to the White Mountains can be enjoyed. Both Cathedral and nearby White Horse ledges are popular rock and ice climbing walls.
I found this trail to be very nice and well marked. It was a beautiful fall day and I combined this with a hike up Cathedral Ledge. I found it to be quite satisfying. There were many beautiful views and many active chipmunks to enlighten the way. I also had the pleasure of a gorgeous hawk to swoop down in front of me and that was quite a show. The hike is steep at times but well worth the views.... positively a do over for me.....
I really liked this trail. It's quick and fun and gets the blood flowing. Also, the view from the top is beautiful and peaceful. I took a quasi-nap before walking down the road back to my car. It took me a while to find the entrance. If you miss it (it's the very first trail on the road up on the left) then you'll most likely (like myself and many other people I noticed) will end up in front of a sign for Cathedral Ledge climbing that explains how to do the trail but is actually not where the trailhead is (if you notice a bunch of rock climbers you've most likely gone one sign too far). Hopefully this will help save at least one person 20 minutes of driving around looking for it
Tip to find most direct route to Cathedral Ledge. Enter from 1st trailhead on Cathedral Ledge Road. (Entering from other trail heads can be confusing, as others have reported) Follow yellow blazes, take right at Bryce Trail marker to the top. (If you look at the back of the sign you might think you are going the wrong direction. You're not. Continue to follow yellow on Bryce Trail.)
Approx. one hour hike with some steep segments. Good intro to steep hiking. Superb views at top. Pack a lunch and eat on rock ledge.
This hike offered beautiful views, but I would NOT recommend it for kids. My husband and I did this hike with our 4 kids (ages 13,11, 9, 8) on a dry and sunny day. It took us 4 hours to complete. It required a lot of climbing on the way up and was VERY steep and slippery in areas on the way down--including some nerve-racking parts along the edge of the cliff. The trail was well marked, but there were intersecting trails and multiple entrances which made it confusing. We were lost for a while and had to rely on the kindness on strangers to find our way and safely navigate down the rocky terrain (the children required 1:1 adult assistance in certain areas--It was very scary). Black Cap is a shorter, safer hike for children and it offers similar views.
We took the auto road up and the short hike to Cathedral Ledge in July 2002 as a postlude to our eventful drive up Mt. Washington on a very windy day. From Mt. Washington, we traveled down 16 to Conway, took a right on 302 and then a left onto West Road and onto Cathedral Rock road to the top for a great view. We saw climbers scaling the cliffs and saw a hawk or peregrine falcon that was upset with the climbers. Echo Lake State Park is a great destination and not to be missed if you're in the neighborhood.
All I can truly say about Cathedral ledge is that it's breathtaking. The view is unparalleled even on such an overcast and less than "ideal for sightseeing' weather day. It was cloudy, overcast, and off and on raining during our visit to this attraction. We drove to the summit and parked at the top. Hiked the well marked off yellow trails with 2 young ladies under 7 years old in-tow. Fantastic walking paths and the girls really dug the amazing view afforded by the ledge. There is a small and rickety chain link fence keeping visitors away from danger. Great for families with younger kids. Still not an excuse to not watch your children lol. We also Geocache and there is a nice little cache stashed away here that made a nice addition to our visit whilst here. Such an amazing vista here...soak it all in and enjoy nature at it's finest at this park! 5 STARS.
Michael C. on Cathedral Ledge Trail
Fun, steep at parts